Head shaking while leading? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 5 Old 09-08-2012, 11:47 AM Thread Starter
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Head shaking while leading?

I'm working with a warmblood mare for a lady, and our eventual goal Is to have her trotting in hand. A little Info on the mare first, Im not sure how old she is but I'd say 3-5 with little work done other than halter breaking, farrier work, ect. Since I started I've discovered that she does not let you spray her with fly spray, I have to reintroduce her to her blanket (which she wears 24/7) after every session because it terrifies her when I go to put it back on her, and she does not stand tied without pulling back. I'm slowly working on all those issues in between other things, but my main goal right now is to get her to lead properly and obediently so I can start trotting her. She tends to try to walk over me, to close and constantly 'pushing'. I've got her Starting to lead quietly where she is supposed to be, but she has started to shake her head quite often and violently. I thought it may possibly be flys, but I applied fly repellent to her face and she still carried on. How do I stop this behavior? She has once shook her head really hard and whacked me in the side of my head with her jaw, which received an instant crack on the neck with the popper at the end of the shank, and she seems to be more careful with her head after that. She hasn't hit me since, but she still shakes her head very often. And aside from jerking the lead when she does it, which I really don't think would do much good, I'm at a loss of how to discourage this.
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post #2 of 5 Old 09-08-2012, 12:02 PM
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There is a large number of issues there that need to be addressed. I feel like there was already a thread on this exact situation before though.

First tying. A horse should know how to stand before you encourage them to move faster than a walk. If they can't stop, don't ask for speed. To teach her to stand, I teach ground tying before hard tying. I put two leads on the horse, one on the ground (a short one they can't trip over if something awful happened. Then tell the horse "stand" take a step back, if the horse moves even 1 inch in any direction, immediately place her feet back where they belong.

This leads me to the next issue. She's a serious space invader - in order to teach her to stand and to respect your space she needs to be taught to yield. She needs to learn to move her hing and front end away with gentle pressure. Apply a small amount of pressure on her hip or shoulder, wait and the moment she moves that part of her away release the pressure and rub the spot out. Do this until she will turn either part of her away with just the forward motion of your hand. Then use the same skill on the top of her nose (where the top of a flat halter would lie) and ask for back up. Stand in front of her, forceably step into her space and apply gentle pressure to the noseband of her halter wait until she backs up, release and praise (praise can be as simple as a 'good' or a rub or just nothing, whatever this horse wants). Once she is backing and yielding her front and hind end easily teach her to put her head down with poll pressure, apply gentle pressure on the lead rope so that there's only pull on the horse's poll, wait, relieve pressure and praise when she moves her head down even a little. If she is non-responsive to this put the rope up over her poll where the earband of the halter is, gentle pressure and wait.
Teaching a horse to put their head down is a great way to help flighty horses shift out of flight mode.

Until she stands when there's a rope on the ground and you can walk all the way around her without her moving an inch and can lead at the walk without invading your space or being rude do not try to trot her in hand. These skills are not individual they are all built on the last. You can't have a solid trot without a solid walk. You need to start this horse from step 1 - no skipping ahead.

Good luck let me know if you need something further explained. I'd also suggest finding a trainer who could perhaps come and show you in person. They can better point out the finesse of training that the internet just can't carry.

ETA: As for the head shaking it could be a number of things. Most obviously is bugs. There are bugs too small for people to see that buzz horse's faces and drive them crazy. Rub some bug spray on her forhead and outside of her ears careful not to get any in her eyes. If she has bug spray on and is still doing it, it could be an ear infection or ear mites or any number of other issues you should have the vet check out.

ETA x2: Darrin brought up a good point- the forlock! I forgot about that, my pony needs his for-lock braided and tucked under his halter because he can't see through it - is her's long or thick? When my pony runs out in his field he throws his head up to get it out of his eyes before he runs off.

Last edited by PunksTank; 09-08-2012 at 12:06 PM.
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post #3 of 5 Old 09-08-2012, 12:04 PM
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Sounds to me something is bothering her. First thing that comes to mind is you say she pulls when tied. Look for obvious injuries around her poll, less obvious one will of course be more problematic to discover. Other things to check/try:

-Inside of her ears look chewed up by bugs? If so she could have mites.
-Try using something like SWAT repellant around her eyes, ears and nostrils. It's a cream so easier to apply in sensitive areas than a spray is.
-Use a different fly spray, the one you are using might not be all that effective.
-Braid her foretop. This does two things, keeps down the sweat under it and prevents pieces of it from wrapping around an ear with a head shake (this annoys both my boys to no end).
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post #4 of 5 Old 09-08-2012, 08:55 PM
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When my colt shakes his head during work, during leading, standing on the crossties etc. it is usually him saying "no" or "I don't want to" or "I don't like this". For him, it is a sign of major disrespect. He has a very belligerent personality that we are working with, but as he matures mentally he is getting better.
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post #5 of 5 Old 09-09-2012, 05:30 PM
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As I read the thread my first thought was how much this horse has gotten away with before this gal started working with her. I don't think she afraid of the blanket, she has gotten away with this behaviour. But she may not like the blanket if she gets too warm or itchy. Fly spray. Get a bottle with water and stand to one side and face her hindquarters. Spray the water to your side so she hears it but doesn't feel anything. Do this a few times then gradually bring it around a little so now she hears it and might see it as well. Just take your time. Tell her (this works with my horse) that you just want to spray her hoof and nothing else). As you work closer your first attempt will be just her hoof. If she stands pop a treat in her mouth. Send the spray away again and work closer. Again just the hoof and pop a treat. You are rewarding her for standing still. From the hoof go no higher than the knee and reward each time for standing still. Then go to the body, behind the shoulder. We are inclined to start at the neck and shoulder area and this often sets the horse off. When you can spray that side you will have to train the other side but just keep rewarding her for standing still. It provides quite an incentive.
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